Aug 272009
 

It is often stated, particularly on libertarian blogs, that the ‘social contract’ is a pile of utter bullshit, an ‘agreement’ to be bound by laws, customs, and a system of government to which none of us has consented, all of us having been born well after said laws, customs, and systems were consented to by our ancestors, or putative representatives thereof. By what right did our ancestors and their representatives bind their posterity?

None.

But if there really were a social contract, one we could enter into or not enter into as we chose, what might it look like?

I, (name in full), hereby affirm my agreement that all human beings are endowed with certain absolute rights; that these rights are to life, liberty, and property; that all human beings should be equal under the law with respect to these rights; that individuals cooperate among themselves to secure them; and that they do so freely and of their own accord.

Therefore, as a mentally competent adult over the age of 18, I hereby agree to the terms of this contract for citizenship in the Free Territory of __________ on my own behalf as well as that of my minor dependents—consenting to be guided in my affairs by the Ethic of Reciprocity, which I state as follows: I will not do to any other citizens of _______ what I would not want them to do to me. Beyond so restricting my actions, it is agreed by my fellow members of _______ that I am free to conduct my affairs as I please, engaging in such activities with my fellow members as may be mutually agreed upon, either formally or informally.

Furthermore, insofar as I might accuse others members of violating my absolute rights or others might accuse me of violating theirs, I agree to conflict resolution under the auspices of a firm chosen by lot from a list of at least three such firms, each of which must be approved by the Association for Conflict Resolution. I also agree that should the parties enter into arbitration, the loser must pay the legal fees of both parties; that insofar as either party refuses arbitration, the protections afforded that party by his citizenship are forfeit; that the forfeiting party is thereby placed in a state of nature vis-à-vis the citizens of _________, who are thereby entitled to take such actions as they deem necessary to resolve the dispute.

Lastly, it is understood by all citizens of _________ that I have the absolute right to cancel my citizenship at any time for any reason and that, should I in fact choose to do so, I will submit my cancellation in writing, recording it so as
to be available for examination and verification by the citizens of _________.

Signed this _____ day of ___________, in the year ______ of the Common Era, as witnessed below by (name in full), who, as a citizen in good standing of ________, has signed a replica of this document, both of which are available for
examination and verification by any other citizen of _________.

Signature of witness _____________________________

From an excellent essay by DG White called, ‘Gold, the Golden Rule, and government: civil society and the end of the state’ in Libertarian Papers Vol. 1, No. 32 (2009).

I have only two problems with it, really. One is academic navel-gazing: if this journal purports to be in any way scholarly, the authors of its articles have to stop citing Wikipedia pages. I know that sources with a URL are the most ideal for journals that publish online, so I can understand the necessity for this, but even assertions linked only tangentially to the primary argument of an essay need to be supported by authoritative citations.

The second is more philosophical, and related to something I’ve been pondering for a while now. This article doesn’t make its argument from first principles. And nor do many libertarians. In my own Adventures in Political Discourse (i.e. arguing with statists), I’ve discovered that, more often than not, we cannot reach agreement because we are arguing from wildly different given premises. For example, the essay begins,

Without money, there can be little in the way of economic specialization, or what is commonly known as the division of labor. And without the division of labor, there can be little in the way of civilization.

Other libertarians, who are presumably the readership of this journal, are not going to take issue with these statements. In a reductio ad absurdum, economic specialisation is good, and division of labour is good, and civilisation is good, because we can live like kings in stupendously cheap luxury unknown throughout most of human history, thus freeing up our own time, labour, and resources to continue production that allows us to continue living like even better kings, or to pursue pleasure and leisure as we choose. All well and good.

But not everybody holds those views. Perhaps they don’t value living like kings, or having time to pursue leisure and pleasure; then specialisation and division of labour will not be a priori goods, and therefore neither will money.

To convince those who disagree with us, we must argue from first principles: either by proving to opponents that our first principles are the correct ones, or demonstrating that even from the first principles they hold to be true that our way is still the better way. We are doing neither.

More on this later…

H/T HrothgarOfHeorot

Aug 252009
 

The government has finally decided, it appears, to ban what people are calling ‘legal highs’: unscheduled party drugs that, like any other substance on the planet which you choose to ingest, can kill you in certain circumstances.

The two drugs, known as BZP and GBL, have been linked to a number of deaths.

‘A number’? How many, exactly?

In May, a coroner in Sheffield linked BZP, also known as herbal ecstasy, to the death last year of 22-year-old mortgage broker Daniel Backhouse.

It is understood that Mr Backhouse had also taken ecstasy.

This is a bit like saying, ‘A coroner linked BZP to the death last year of Daniel Backhouse. It is understood that Mr Backhouse had also been run over by a backhoe.’ Classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. But still, that’s one of our ‘number of deaths.’

Here’s another:

Hester Stewart, who was 21 and a medical student, died after taking GBL in Brighton. Both drugs would be classified as Class C.

Hester Stewart’s mother, Maryon, has campaigned for legal highs to be banned.

She told the BBC News Channel: “I’m delighted. I think the Home Office is moving in the right direction.

“We need to tell people that GBL plus alcohol can equal death. Hester hadn’t had that much alcohol and then later on that evening an old friend of hers gave her half a dose of GBL which he said was safe.

“So the two mixed together just sent her into a coma and she didn’t wake up…”

Maryon Stewart is the same woman who, back in April, was weeping all over Telegraph reporters that if the government had just banned this shit ages ago like it promised, her daughter would never have died:

“How can the Home Office not be accountable for something like this? How come it’s not classified? How could this happen?

“Some pen-pusher somewhere should be able to work out how to ban it,” said Mrs Stewart. “How come they hesitated?

“This is a disaster. It’s just beyond belief that something like this could have happened to such a brilliant, caring, intelligent girl who had so much to offer the whole world, not just her family.

“I feel gutted, I feel cheated, I feel bitterly frustrated and angry that this has been allowed to happen.”

I tried to be vaguely sympathetic the last time I wrote about this – some may claim I failed even then – but now there is simply no excuse. This interfering fucking busybody exemplifies all that is wrong with a certain sort of person today. In blaming the Home Office for failing to ban this drug and thus prevent her daughter’s death, she absolves herself (and her daughter) of all responsibility. By her own account, a friend gave her daughter the pill, claiming it was safe. WTF? I like my friends, and by and large I trust them, but even at the relatively still-stoopid age of 21, I would never have taken a random pill at a party without knowing what it was. I’m sure many people would, and do, and nothing bad happens, but that’s the chance one takes. Didn’t Maryon Stewart teach her daughter this stuff? She is, after all,

a founder of the Natural Health Advisory Service and presents a series on a satellite television channel. “In my work I teach people how to look after themselves and all the stuff I do is caring about people, and that’s the kind of environment Hessie’s been brought up in,” she said. “I’m just gutted the Home Office didn’t care enough.”

That’s right. It’s the Home Office’s fault for not caring enough about

the third person to have died in the past 12 months after taking GBL

Yup. There’s our ‘number of deaths.’ 3.

Last August, the Government’s drugs advisers told the Home Office that the substance should be classified as a Class C drug.

But because it also has a use as an industrial solvent – in the plastics industry and as a nail polish remover – officials have been delayed in framing the legislation. It is banned for personal use in America, Canada and Sweden.

Who are these drug advisers? Is it the same Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs who recommended the downgrading of ecstasy to class B, amongst other things – most of whose recommendations about drugs policy (that is, in fact, what the ACMD exists to make) are ignored by the government when they conflict with the Daily Mail’s anti-drugs crusade?

Probably not, or the article would have told us. Instead, we must wonder at these shadowy drug advisers who wish to pursue anti-drugs policies that have been super-successful in such utopian drug-free countries as…the United States.

(Leave aside the fact that GBL is an industrial solvent used in nail-polish remover. Have you ever smelled that stuff? It says right on the bottle that it’s not for internal consumption. Only a fucking idiot would ingest it.)

But all of this is by the by, really; here is what’s happened. Slightly rebellious young adult goes to party, does the equivalent of slurping nail-polish remover, dies. Mom-in-denial blames Home Office. Home Office bans slurping nail-polish remover. The one-woman crusade has succeeded. Surely the biggest problem here is not the drugs, nor even the banning of them, but the fact that one guilt-stricken grieving woman has the power to influence government policy.

Wait, that’s happened before?

Trolls = class envy?

 hilarity, indolence  Comments Off on Trolls = class envy?
Aug 232009
 

The appeal was easy to see: If you can’t whittle a toy horse, knit a blanket, write a poem or play an instrument, at least you might be able to destroy some amount of the free time possessed by the people that can. If the productive members of society who are usually out there creating something–no matter how small or trivial–instead used their time yelling at you for slights that you put absolutely no effort into, then they were also not producing. And if they were not producing, and you were not producing, then voila! You’re suddenly just as valuable to society as they are! Instead of simply being “lesser than” the average person, now you’re finally “lesser than or equal to“! You’re no better, but at least they’re a little worse! And thus trolling was born. It was easy, it provided a largely illusory benefit (but a benefit nonetheless) and best of all – you’re ruining something! They always say, “It’s easier to destroy than it is to create,” and while most people saying that intend it to be a bad thing, you, the troll, see it as a benefit.

They’re totally right! It is easier, isn’t it? Aren’t easier things better?

It’s like you practically have no choice but to type “meh” or “fag” or better yet (and I’m only giving this to you because I love you) you could combine the two.

You could type “mehfag.”

Aug 232009
 

I was listening to music on Friday – something I do less often now that it’s school holidays and I’m not walking home from work every day with my iPod glued in my ears – and ‘Diamond Dogs’ happened to pop up on random play.

As you may or may not know, I am a huge David Bowie fan – up to perhaps 1983 – and ‘Diamond Dogs’ has always been one of my favourite Bowie tunes, not least because I find the equation of rock and roll to genocide hugely (and cynically) amusing.

Hearing the song reminded me of a criticism a friend of mine used to make. When one listens to the chorus casually, Bowie appears to sing, ‘Come out of the garden, baby, you’ll catch your death in the fall.’

My friend found this delightful; he loved the apparent reference to the Garden of Eden and the Christian postlapsarian conception of death.

Unfortunately, as someone eventually pointed out to him, that’s not actually what the words are: rather, Bowie says, ‘you’ll catch your death in the fog.’ My friend found this rather more prosaic and uninspired, and when he pointed his mondegreen out to me, I had to agree with him.

What I’m trying to say is, David Bowie missed an allegorical trick there. I guess he’s not quite as brilliant as I thought he was. *sigh*

Aug 202009
 

Dick Morris on Fox News:

The Democratic Party is composed of building blocks, interest groups. Republicans aren’t. They’re just a group of people who think the same on issues. But Democrats are blacks, plus Hispanics, plus women, plus young people, plus labor unions, plus the elderly. And when one of those blocks turns against what the Democrats are doing, the party gets scared to death.

Ha! Ahahaha!

Democrats = interest groups consisting of blacks, Hispanics, women, young people, old people, and labour unions.

Republicans = a group of people who think the same on issues. But who are neither black, Hispanic, women, young people, old people, or labour unionists. Which leaves middle-aged, white, white-collar men.

‘Cause that’s not a building block or interest group at all. Just a group of people who think the same on issues.

[bella goes away, shaking head in bemusement]

Aug 202009
 

Yes, that is how the universe is divided up these days; or if not the universe, at least the immigration queues at Gatwick South Terminal.

When the Devil and I arrived back in the UK this morning–three hours late because Thomas Cook Airlines make the Titanic seem like a pleasant transport option–from our lovely trip to Cyprus, we were greeted by the sight of two separate corridors at the border. Not just two separate queues, you understand: the Rest of the World now are now directed by a sign (helpfully footnoted with the legend ‘This includes US citizens’, in case we’re too stupid to realise we’re not part of the EU) down a cattle chute of their very own, beneath exposed piping, drop cloths, and alongside bare sheetrock walls, twice the length of the EU corridor, to meet with surly border agents next to another sign that proclaims, reassuringly, ‘Tougher checks mean longer waits’ and ‘We catch 2,100 immigration criminals a year.’

After some further surly misdirection, I was made to join the EU queue anyway, as one of the only three representatives of the Rest of the World in the terminal at that time. And was duly questioned, although fortunately not detained again, probably because I had associate firepower standing next to me.

Quite apart from being pigeon-holed into Sneeches-with-Stars-Upon-Thars and Sneeches-Without-Stars by Angus McFergus McTavish Dundee Border Agent, what also peeved me was being questioned about the Refused Tier 1 Application (see here and here). The Border Agents can see on their little passport-reading computer that I was refused that visa but they can’t, apparently, see why. Evidently, this innocent piece of data makes me out to be quite the shady customer. So even though the refusal was entirely document-related, and due entirely to the Border Agency’s own misinformation, its presence on the database paints me with the brush of Immigration Criminal–they might as well slap a sticker on my forehead that says ‘Undesirable! Treat with suspicion!’ Because that’s exactly how the Border Agency are now treating me.

Somebody ought to relay to them that (a) living in Britain has now become so repulsive to some of its own citizens that they feel no shame in asking me ‘Why in the name of all that is holy and pure do you want to stay here?’ and (b) the United States is not yet such a shithole that its productive class are now fleeing in droves to the sunnier shores of the UK. It’s not as if I’m here to start a new life in a better land where all are free to pursue prosperity and happiness. All I wanted was to carry on enjoying my nice job and my nice home with my nice now-husband, fulfilling all the responsibilities of living in Britain without having access to any of the privileges. I don’t see why that’s so much to ask, or why it means I must not only put up with being shepherded about, marginalised, and interrogated like the sneakiest crim in history, but also be expected to feel safer and grateful for it at the same time.

That said, Cyprus was wonderful, and interestingly enough, provided a tremendous contrast: we went to the American Embassy in Nicosia to have a document notarised by the consul, and from start to finish, I was treated like royalty. Admittedly, royalty that has to be metal-detectored and patted down three times before being allowed into the Inner Sanctum, but royalty nonetheless. Everybody was polite, nay, downright friendly; they ushered me to the front of all the queues, no appointment necessary; the consul himself congratulated me in paternal fashion on the impending nuptials; and the guards were kind enough to arrange transport back to Larnaka for us–all because of my shiny blue American passport. Sometimes being part of the Rest of the World is quite pleasant.

Aug 102009
 

Does anyone happen to know, or be, a notary public in London – who for preference is willing to notarise something very simple within the next two days?

Suggestions much appreciated.

Aug 072009
 

Not too many weeks ago, I ran across a blog, the name of which I cannot now remember, in which the author posted a hypothetical government ban on books – not because of their literary content, but because as old books decay, they could release fibres and other toxins which might be inhaled by the reader, thus damaging the reader’s health. He was using it to illustrate, if I remember correctly, the way the government wishes to restrict or ban anything which gives us pleasure and justifies doing so on rather spurious ‘health’ grounds.

If anybody knows the blogger I mean, do let me know, because I’d like to give him a head’s-up:

Congress to ban sale of children’s books printed before 1985

Why? Because they are hazardous to the health.

UPDATE: Yes, it was Frank Davis.

Aug 052009
 

Oh, George. Read your own words:

As any old hippy will tell you, festivals aren’t what they used to be. Gone are the days when you could announce a happening, call up a few mates with drums and guitars, and put the word out that something groovy and free was about to kick off. In these buttoned-down times, it would be treated like an al-Qaida training camp. Today, you must apply for a licence and spend months of your life filling in forms and liaising with the various responsible authorities. There are good reasons for this: it ensures that no one is crushed to death and that local people aren’t harried by intolerable noise and disruption. There are also bad reasons: the controlling, snooping, curtain-twitching state tendencies which insist that all spontaneity be planned six months in advance, that no one can ever take her top off or smoke homegrown weed or get a little bit outrageous – even within a festival site – for fear of offending some tight-arsed busybody in desperate need of a life.

You didn’t defend us when they snooped in our rubbish bins. You didn’t defend us when they fined us for not recycling properly. You didn’t defend us when Jamie Oliver wanted to dictate what chickens we buy at the supermarket. You have been, for some time now, one of the tight-arsed busybodies in desperate need of a life.

And now they’ve turned on you and your pet causes, too. Doesn’t feel nice, does it? Lie in the bed you helped to make, George. Lie there and learn to love it.